A Shrunken Gospel in an Individualistic, Self-Centered Society

Len Hjamarlson over at Next Reformation has an excellent post on why the gospel in the West is weak and ineffective.

He writes,
"We in the west shrunk the gospel in response to an increasingly individualistic, self-centered society. The good news of the kingdom went from a sweeping story of God’s mighty acts, His plan to reconcile all things to himself and restore creation, to personal life insurance...
...it reduces salvation to a spiritual exchange divorced from life in this world. It makes salvation and God irrelevant to daily life. In a world increasingly aware of the interconnection between all things, this sacred-secular split is nonsense...
...Rediscovering the nature of the gospel and the covenant God and His purpose in history is the only solution for our world, our only hope for some measure of justice, and the only possibility of peace, both inner and outer..."
Len quotes Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy a couple of times (including this priceless quote: "The gospel of sin management produces vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else."), and asks if our metaphor to describe Christ's work on the cross needs to shift away from penal substitution toward the metaphor of Christus Victor.

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Steve Gerich said...

What does Christus Victor mean?

Bob Robinson said...


Check out a post I wrote last year talking about various ways to view the Atonement. It explains the concept of Christus Victor.

It can be found here:
The Kingdom of God and the Atonement

RonMcK said...

America already has a Christian system of government and is largely a Christian society, so you do not need a broad gospel. A narrow gospel is fine for bringing the last few recalcitrants in.

Nate W said...

Honestly Bob, I feel we, as Christians, must go back to our roots. This is going to require us to shed much of our Western, Greek influences for the sake of embracing more of a Hebraic way of thinking and living.

If we would take some time to consider our Jewish roots and the context out of which the Scriptures have been written, I find it hard to believe we could ever come to an individualistic, self-centered interpretation of God's gospel for humanity.

Much of the teachings of Jesus have been distorted, not due to lack of desire or commitment to reading the Scriptures or to following his way, but to the fact that we have for so long forgotten the roots from which we receive support (Romans 11:18).

We must go back!

RonMcK said...

You should be careful about pushing this Christus Victor stuff. The devil might get scared and the antichrist might be unwilling to come and Jesus will not be able to return.

Bob Robinson said...


Cut it out! You're cracking me up.

Bob Robinson said...


I love the call, "Semper Reformando!"

--"Always Reforming!"

RonMcK said...

A shrunken gospel is awful, but replacing it with a shrunken Christus Victor would be sad.

Bob Robinson said...


I think I understand you, but maybe you could spell that out a little...
What would "a shrunken Christus Victor" look like?

RonMcK said...

To my simple mind, the atonement is relatively simple. Humasn sin really stuffed up this world. It produced guilt, shame, violence, crime, broken relationships, etc, etc, etc. My theory of the atonement is that everything that sin and Satan stuffed up has been sorted by Jesus. The gospel is that Jesus sorted everything that needed to be sorted. I suppose that this is what is summarised in Luke 4:18,19. So take one facet or image of what Jesus did and limit the atonement to that is both a nonsense and an insult to him.

It is thirty years, since I read Christus Victor, but the way I see the words is that every benefit that evil gained through sin has been defeated by Jesus victory.

I do not see the two approaches to the atonement as contradictory. Sin and Satan were allowed to stuff up this world. They empower each other, so Jesus had to deal with both Ss. A theory of the atonenment that only deals with one S is distorted.

My simple theory of the atonement is the 5S theory: Everything Stuffed up by Sin and Satan Sorted by Jesus and the Spirit. I am not going to honour the former by making a complete list of what they did. Whenever I see something they have done, I am happy knowing that it was sorted by Jesus and is being sorted by the Spirit.

With regard to your question, I can think of two ways that Jesus victory could be shrunk. One way would be to put all sorts of qualifications around it by saying, it does not apply to this or it does not apply to that. The other way to shrink it would be to say push the real victory onto the second coming, ie the cross was half a victory, but the second coming will be the real McCoy. I sense that both types of shrinkage are fairly common.